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Pruitt Testimony Criticized as Industry Seeks EPA Rule Changes

As industry groups call on Congress to reject an EPA proposal regarding chemical plant risk management, Senate Democrats criticized President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the agency.

As industry groups call on Congress to reject an EPA proposal regarding chemical plant risk management, Senate Democrats criticized President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the agency for his answers to their questions during the confirmation process.

Bloomberg reports that Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt supported industry efforts to curb the risk management rule — but did not share specifics about his position with Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The rule, proposed early last year, would require chemical plants to consider safer alternatives as part of their risk management planning process.

It would also increase the amount of information available to the public, improve coordination between facilities and local officials and require audits and analyses to identify potential improvements.

The Obama administration said at the time that chemical plants reported more than 1,500 accidents in the preceding decade that resulted in nearly 60 fatalities. Some critics suggested that the proposed rule did not go far enough.

Twenty-one industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, countered with a letter to congressional leaders last week expressing their concerns with the proposal, Bloomberg reported.

The groups defended their records under current risk management guidelines and argued that the new rule would impose significant new costs without a demonstrated improvement in safety.

"[I]t may actually compromise the security of our facilities, emergency responders and our communities," the groups wrote.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Environment committee, asked Pruitt as part of the confirmation proceedings whether chemical companies should be responsible for making their facilities "as safe as possible." Carper said in a statement that the answers he received were "shockingly devoid of substance."

Pruitt, according to documents released by Carper's office, responded that "every American should be provided safe home and work environments and people who live or work in and around chemical facilities are no exception to that."

"As the confirmation process continues, I strongly urge Mr. Pruitt to revisit these questions and provide us with the comprehensive information we need to ensure the American people will continue to have an EPA that protects our environment and health," Carper said in his statement.

Pruitt's nomination initially drew criticism from Democrats and environmental advocates because of his skepticism regarding climate science, his previous lawsuits against the EPA and his reported tendency to negotiate with industry.

He supporters defended his record and said that he believes “many of the nation’s challenges regarding clean air and water are best met at the state and local level.”

The committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Wednesday.
 

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